BY Steve Rudman 01:00AM 02/23/2011

Nobody Asks But Us: RPI revealed

How does UW’s current RPI compare to other Husky teams in NCAA tourney?

Washington's current RPI indicates it does not have good odds to get to or past the Sweet 16. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

After defeating the Seattle U. Redhawks, the University of Washington basketball team has an RPI rank of 35. How does that “35” compare to other UW teams that played in the NCAA Tournament?

First, a definition. The Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) is a formula used by the NCAA to aide in selecting teams and seedings for the NCAA Tournament. Computer generated, RPI is made up of a team’s winning percentage (25%), its opponents’ winning percentage (50%), and the winning percentage of those opponents’ opponents (25%).

In 2004, RPI was modified to account for differences in home and away games. A home win now counts as 0.6 win, while a road win counts as 1.4 wins. Conversely, a home loss equals 1.4 losses, while a road loss counts as 0.6 loss.

An RPI rank of 35 (nationally) isn’t bad when you consider that in 2010 the Huskies had an RPI rank of 34 and reached the Sweet Sixteen after stirring victories over Marquette and New Mexico. But an RPI rank over 30 simply won’t cut it if a team has designs on advancing farther in the NCAA Tournament than the Sweet Sixteen.

Lots of people have lots of problems with the RPI measurement for lots of reasons. Disagree with the evidence if you will.

Since RPI rankings came into vogue a little more than decade ago, the Huskies have made seven appearances in the NCAA Tournament. The following were Washington’s RPI national rankings in those years, what happened in the tournament, and where the Huskies are today:

  • 1998: Record: 20-10; RPI: 37: Result: Reached Sweet 16, lost to Connecticut
  • 1999: Record: 17-12; RPI: 34; Result: Ousted in 1st round by Miami of Ohio
  • 2004: Record: 19-12; RPI: 63; Result: Ousted in 1st round by UAB
  • 2005: Record: 29-6; RPI: 6; Result: Reached Sweet 16, lost to Louisville
  • 2006: Record: 26-7; RPI: 35; Result: Reached Sweet 16, lost to Connecticut
  • 2009: Record: 26-9; RPI: 14; Result: Lost 2nd round to Purdue
  • 2010: Record 26-10; RPI: 34; Result: Reached Sweet 16, lost to West Virginia
  • 2011: Record: 18-8; RPI: 35: Result: To be determined

This would suggest that Washington, with a current 35 RPI ranking, can’t expect to go much farther than the Sweet Sixteen this season, if that. But that also depends on the UW’s seeding, where the NCAA sends the Huskies to play, and the matchup they get — if they get one (they probably will).

At the beginning of the 2010-11 season, Washington seemed to be a viable candidate to reach the Elite Eight. The Huskies had a proficient point guard in Abdul Gaddy, a shot-blocking center in Aziz N’Diaye, a good inside player in Matthew Bryan-Amaning, as well as a great shooting guard, Isaiah Thomas — attributes, historically, of Elite Eight-caliber teams.

In addition, before Pac-10 play started, the Huskies had scored more than 100 points in a game three times. They suffered narrow losses to nationally ranked teams twice, in the Maui Invitational, but those defeats mainly encouraged the optimistic view that UW would improve as the season advanced. Alas, it hasn’t.

The Huskies lost Gaddy to injury. N’Diaye emerged as more of an offensive project than anyone imagined, and still isn’t where he — or the Huskies — need him to be. Bryan-Amaning disappeared in several games. While the Huskies have won every home game by at least 10 points, they have had major trouble winning on the road, and they simply can’t win a close game, going 1-7 in such contests.

The Huskies now barely seem to be Sweet 16 material, based on RPI rankings.  As far as being Elite Eight material, RPI says it’s not going to happen.

Last year, when Duke won the NCAA Tournament after posting a No. 2 RPI ranking during the regular season, the team with the highest RPI in the Elite Eight was Michigan State, which had a ranking of 19. A year earlier, 2009, the team with the highest RPI rank in the Elight Eight was Villanova at No. 13.

Since 2000, these Elite Eight teams had the highest RPI rankings:

Meantime, the average RPI ranking for all Elite Eight since 2000: 17. To reiterate, Washington currently stands at No. 35.

Although Missouri (2002) and Davidson (2008) reached the Elite Eight with higher RPI rankings that the 35 Washington currently has, the average and highest-ranked Elite Eight team listed above came in at 23.9, far better than Washington’s 35.

Looked at solely through the lens of RPI, a team needs to be in single digits to become a national champion. Since 2000, NCAA Tournament winners (and their RPI rankings) have been: 2000 — Michigan State (8), 2001 — Duke (6); 2002 — Maryland (3); 2003: Syracuse (6); 2004 — Connecticut (4); 2005 — North Carolina (4); 2006 — Florida (9); 2007 — Florida (4); 2008 — Kansas (6); 2009 — North Carolina (3); 2010 — Duke (2).

Based only on RPI, the Huskies need to rise 10 places in the rankings before they can seriously think about becoming an Elite Eight team, and about 25 places before they can entertain notions of winning a national championship.

Won’t be easy.

Nobody Asks But Us” is published every Wednesday as part of Sportspress Northwest’s package of home-page features collectively titled, “The Rotation.”

The Rotation’s weekly schedule:

  • Monday: That Was The Week That Was — A snarky, day-by-day review of the week just ended.
  • Tuesday: Wayback Machine — Sports historian David Eskenazi’s deep dive into local sports history, replete with photo eye candy.
  • Wednesday: Nobody Asks But Us — We ask, and answer, fun and quirky questions nobody else is asking.
  • Thursday: Water Cooloer Cool: Art Thiel takes on the weekend for the benefit of the more casual fan.
  • Friday: Top 5 List — The alpha and omega of Northwest sports, at least as far as we’re concerned.


  • snowing

    Considering how inconsistent we’ve been this year, I would take just getting in to the tourney as victory.

    I love coach Romar but this season has not been one of his best. Too many team lapses, especially on the defensive end and way too much predicated on three pointers on the offensive side of the ball.

  • JD

    Love the info. Gives me something to chew on for the day. Win the next 3 at home and they get into the upper mid 20’s of the RPI, excluding Pac-10 Tourney. They may break 20 if they run the division tourney and beat a top 10 Arizona team in the finals. Tons of opportunity for a hungry team. Please sweet lord, may they improve their free-throw shooting!

  • Chris

    Nice read. Thanks.

  • Timmchugh

    “The grade thing was a problem. But in the NFL, little concern is given to recall of 18th century French poets.”

    Love it.  

  • Timmchugh

    It’s also nice to see Paul Allen diversifying his work force…

  • HawkandRoll

    Last year the so called experts gave the Hawks an A and we had the season we had. The truth is no one knows. Brady was Mr.Irrelevant and became one of the best ever.

  • cruddly

     So now we grade how the teams drafted by comparing their actual picks against the experts’ predictions?   Does this makes sense?   It kind of does if you make your living hyping this kind of crap for a football starved nation.  America loves things that can be inflated, from beach balls to the  NFL draft.

  • Phharmening

    Sometimes one does roll a 7 on the come-out passline, and I’ve seen it done 3 times in succession. The NFL draft is nothing other than a crap shoot.  There is no way to give an accurate grade on this Seahawk class now.  And when a grade can be given, either PC and JS will be called geniuses, or they will be on their way to the unemployment lines.  

  • Soggyblogger

    Like most polls, I hated the questions. I was forced to pick the least offensive statement: I trust PC/JS to …. blah blah. While I think this draft grade (stupid, stupid, stupid) is A, it’s not entirely because I “trust” this FO, but because I did my own pre-draft scouting, and thought Irvin the best non-QB prospect for our team. Yes, I did. I hated the other pass rush options. They all have “potential bust” written across their foreheads. Mediocre, short armed, slackers, and questionable production in college. While Irvin is fast by any standard used. I can see him terrorizing QB’s for the next ten years. 

    Who can blame sportswriters for quoting other sports writers to validate their own opinions? Original research is too much to ask. Having an original opinion is, too. Oh, well, back to amateur sports blogs………………

  • Jamo57

    As much as Husky fans like to attribute (blame) Oregon’s ascendance on the seeming unlimited funds Uncle Phil pumps into the program, it’s the following numbers that are probably more important:

    Rich Brooks 1977-1994
    Mike Belotti 1995-2008
    Chip Kelly 2009-to as long as he wants (or hopefully  a Carrollian jump to the NFL shortly before the NCAA hammer is struck).

    But the point is even if your are right Art, the Husky nation needs to resist the temptation to put Sark on the hot seat.   Oregon has the additonal benefit in the fact Nick Aliotti doesn’t seem to want to go anywhere to take a head coaching job, so the continuity on the defensive side of the ball is even more pronounced.    I’m not sure that is the same path Justin Wilcox wants to take. 

    • Artthiel

       Jamo, you’re right that the coaching churn and various scandals have been the single biggest factor in the Huskies’ erosion. Lots of bad management by the alleged adults.

      But now it’s Oregon’s turn to be spanked by the NCAA. Happens to nearly every team that succeeds because nobody plays by the rules. Just a matter of if-when you’re caught.

  • Brett

    I don’t see it Art. This team will score an upset of one of the “Big 4” (most likely Stanford) and then go either 5-1 or 6-0 in the back half. 7 wins is the safest prediction. Yours assumes that this team won’t upset anyone and will lose to two teams it shouldn’t. While this team is young in terms of age, it actually has more game experience than last year’s team, particularly on defense.

    • Artthiel

       Sorry, Brett, the D just doesn’t have Pac-12-caliber talent. They’re already out two starters who weren’t quite average. Thompson’s already the best player, and he hasn’t played. Washington used to have six guys a year like Thompson.

  • Pixeldawg13

     Well, no.  I didn’t.  That prediction’s been made a number of times, often on the Seattle Times’ Husky blog.

    It’s a possibility, but I’m not sure the Cougs can outscore six opponents; they’re unlikely to stop anyone, given their depth issues on D.  (remember, between an injury or two, and the Pirate’s cleaning house, at least 3 defensive starters are gone permanently.  I give Leach credit for his rules and abiding by them–but it does make the defensive cupboard pretty doggone lean.)

    I think the Husky D, while not reminiscent of the late 80s-early 90s Purple Reign, will be much improved.  Even if they only improve to, say, 65th or so in the country, it’s a huge upgrade on that side of the ball.  Offense?  Yes, lost 3 major playmakers in Kearse, Aguilar, and some tailback–but the skill positions are not gonna be the problem on this O.

    • Artthiel

      Getting to 65 is a reach, Pixeldawg. No Pac-12 average LBs, aside from whatever they do with Shaq Thompson. 

  • Tianbiao

    Art is probably right. I mean, even if the Huskies beat one of the Big 4 (and please, gawd, may that one be Oregon), there is always a let-down loss or two to wazzu or Cal or Oregon state waiting out there somewhere.

    But I agree with Jamos (and Art): 6-6 is no great shame, it’s tough out there, and it takes time. Give Sark the time he needs, please.

    • Artthiel

       Begging college football fans for time is like begging a wolf to back away from a pork chop.

  • Artthiel

     Cougs with six wins? Apparently the cannibis harvest is real late this year.

  • Artvintage97

     I have to agree with Art. Tough schedule this year. Plus, the defense is
    coming from a point near the bottom of the barrel.
    Sark has had difficulty recruiting the best players from the PNW. Also,
    and I will say it, he can’t seem to recruit good white players.
    Anyone have a theory on the latter????I

    • RadioGuy

      Does it matter whether Sark recruits white players?  The only colors that should matter to UW fans are purple and gold.

    • Jtkxyz

      Your comment, and I will say it, is pathetic.  And not only is “the defense coming from a point near the bottom of the barrel”, so is your comment.  Maybe you can’t see straight with a pillow cover over your head, but come to the light, and unbend the racist bent of your mind.

      Your comment makes me wonder if you have difficulty cheering for the Hawks, they have so many “colored” players.  And basketball must not be a sport you follow.  Get out more often, and enjoy the beautiful colors of this wonderful world.